Best Journalist-Turned-Historian

Liam O'Donoghue's podcast is one of the best, most accessible platforms for learning about Oakland's history.

Liam O'Donoghue - ILLUSTRATION BY GILLIAN DREHER
  • Illustration by Gillian Dreher
  • Liam O'Donoghue

Podcast East Bay Yesterday is one of the best, most accessible platforms for learning about Oakland's history — as its tagline says, it's "a show about history, but it's not stuck in the past." But creator Liam O'Donoghue is neither an East Bay native nor a trained historian. Born in Chicago, O'Donoghue felt drawn to the West Coast after completing his journalism degree, so he packed up his bags and moved in 2002. He initially lived in an SRO unit in San Francisco and worked at a golf course until he broke into local media, writing for publications such as Salon, Mother Jones, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. At that point, he had the writing chops, but no experience in what he wanted to do next: create a podcast. So O'Donoghue taught himself audio production, armed with little more than YouTube tutorials and a strong DIY ethic. He nurtured his fledgling interest in history by holing up in the Oakland Main Library history room and chatting with members of the Oakland History Facebook group. By September 2016, he released his first episode of East Bay Yesterday. Since then, O'Donoghue has produced dozens of episodes, on everything from Japanese incarceration and the roots of hip-hop to the stories behind Oakland's most prominent abandoned buildings. In a moment of such rapid socio-economic upheaval, his podcast provides an invaluable way of preserving the Oakland people know and love before it's rendered entirely unrecognizable.

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